Monday, August 31, 2020

Hilary Levey Friedman's "Here She Is"

Hilary Levey Friedman is a sociologist and expert on beauty pageants, childhood and parenting, competitive afterschool activities, and popular culture who teaches courses in the Department of Education at Brown University. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Cambridge.

Levey Friedman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America is in Chapter 3, “Burning versus Padding Bras: The Establishment of Second Wave Feminism.” This part of the book begins with the 1968 protest outside of the Miss America Pageant, describes the following year when my mother competed at (and won!) Miss America, and connects the growing organization of the feminist movement (like the National Organization for Women) to changes in Miss America and other pageants in the 1970s.

Which brings us to Page 99, which details results of my original data analysis of pageant program books, beginning in the 1970s. To test pageant stereotypes (i.e. they are all blonde and blue-eyed women from the South) I collected and coded program books not just from Miss America but also Miss USA, America’s Junior Miss/Distinguished Young Woman, and the National Sweetheart Pageant. With Miss America I went even further, getting historical books from nine state pageants. These program books present information on contestants, judges, prizes, and more.

The first paragraph on Page 99 reads:
That Miss America’s state pageants would be focused on higher education during Second Wave feminism would not be an unreasonable assumption. But it would be wrong, at least when it comes to the information conveyed in the program books. Of the states in my sample, only three list college major in their program books, and not one of them for the entire time period. Mississippi listed it most frequently, for six of the years. Mississippi is often stereotyped as a state focused much more on how their Southern belles look than on how they think. But the Miss Mississippi program books suggest that education was a big focus of their program, and in these years, contestants’ measurements or their height and weight were never listed. While majors related to business and communications were the most common every year in Mississippi, among the winners the most common majors were science related.
In case you could not tell by now, Here She Is tells the story of feminism using the lens of beauty pageants. It begins in 1848 at Seneca Falls and goes up to the present day. Because Page 99 shows the originality of the data and argument in Here She Is, and showcases how I connect the history of pageantry to the present day, I do think it illustrates the book—even if it doesn’t have as much descriptive or personal details as other parts of it.
Learn more about the book and author at Hilary Levey Friedman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Playing to Win.

--Marshal Zeringue